By Phil Kendon
One person walks with dignity and peace through a severe trial that comes upon his life, while another seems to fall apart at the seams.
One exhibits a joy in God despite his circumstances, while another sinks into the dark mists of depression and grief.
Death, sickness, financial hardship, or a suffering child—any of these could send us spiraling downwards in a cycle of questions, doubts, anger, and depression. But trials can also draw us upwards in faith, hope, and the peace that passes understanding.
Which way will we go when suffering comes our way? Here are some tips to help us take the upward path.
1. Remember Jesus
We have a Savior who shared in our experience of living in a fallen and broken world. Jesus experienced poverty. He lived through the rejection of his family members. He was even betrayed by one of his inner circle of disciples. Jesus can comfort us because he did not bypass the suffering of this world, but endured it.
2. Remember Heaven
Suffering reminds us this world is not Heaven. We are looking forward to a day when Jesus comes to wrap up this age and bring an end to suffering, pain, sickness, and evil. Everything we experience in this life is temporary. Pain will not last forever, and sickness will cease to exist.
3. Remember Faith
We don’t always know what God is doing. We don’t always understand why these things are happening to us. But when we lift our eyes to God in faith, our trust in him begins to outweigh the circumstances we face. Have faith in God despite the pain.
4. Remember the Church
When we go through a trial, we can become isolated from fellow believers and family members. It is easy to withdraw from fellowship because of the pain when we are asked how we are doing. We feel like we are putting on a facade of happiness when all we feel is pain. But people love us, and the safest place to be is in their love, not on our own.
5. Remember Praise
Praise is an active word. It is an action that brings us into a sense of wonder and awe at the person and character of God. Instead of focusing all our attention on the difficulty of our circumstances, we can deliberately turn our attention to God. Praise lifts us out of the downward spiral toward despair. Praise lifts us up to the enjoyment of God despite our pain.
6. Remember Prayer
In prayer we acknowledge God alone is able to bring about the change we need. Even if the answer seems to be delayed, keep praying; it is the right door to knock on for help. Jesus instructs us to keep on persevering in prayer, and reminds us that God will respond to our petitions.
7. Remember Your Testimony
Think about how you became a Christian. Think about the sins God has forgiven and cleansed you from. Think about the prayers he has answered in the past. Let your testimony be a source of encouragement in your trial.
8. Remember Your Bible
Let the stories of the heroes of the Bible inspire you with faith and hope. Let them encourage you to follow their example. Besides the stories, there are many teachings and instructions and psalms, and all of them help steady our hearts in difficult times.
9. Remember Your Voice
A football coach motivates his players at various times during a game. Likewise, sometimes we need to gird ourselves up in God. We can use our voice to raise new courage and determination in our own soul for the demands of the rest of the match. In the words of the psalmist: “Why are you cast down, O my soul? . . . Hope in God” (Psalm 42:5, New King James Version).
10. Remember You Are Not Alone
The Holy Spirit is another comforter, one who is exactly like Jesus. He is present with us. He never leaves us. He is leading us and reminding us. Remember you are never alone, no matter how dark the situation may seem.
We each want to be the person who walks through a trial with dignity and peace rather than the one who falls apart at the seams. This is a path that is ours to choose. We can choose to be the victim of our circumstance. Anger, disappointment, and depression can characterize our journey. Or we can choose to remember. We can take a path of faith, trust, peace, and joy. We can be strengthened and encouraged by meditating on these points and putting them into practice.
Phil Kendon serves as full-time pastor with Red Point Church in Durban, South Africa.